Wisconsin’s top plays of the last decade, Troy Vincent the ballot for the HOF and a new Bracketology
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Today is Friday, June 2, and this is what’s for breakfast.
Remembering the best
Outside of Ohio State, no football team in the Big Ten has been more successful in the last decade than Wisconsin. Three Big Ten titles, three division championships and 97 wins is an impressive run for the program. So when you take stock of the last 10 years, a flood of memories come washing over you. It can be overwhelming to try to choose from the myriad of worthwhile moments, but with inspiration from Scott Dochterman here at Land of 10, who ranked Iowa’s top plays of the last decade on Thursday, we thought we’d take a stab at doing the same for the Badgers.
1) To the house
In one of the more anticipated home games in recent memory, the Badgers hosted No. 1 Ohio State on Oct. 16, 2010. With all day to tailgate, fans were in a festive mood when the Buckeyes kicked things off just after 7 p.m., but they soon turned delirious thanks to David Gilreath. The senior took the opening kickoff from his 3-yard line, veered to his left before spotting a gaping hole and bursting through it, and left Ohio State defenders in his wake for a 97-yard touchdown. It was the start of a magical night that ended with the Badgers winning 31-18 and setting themselves up for a Big Ten title run.
2) ‘Fires across the field’
Trailing Michigan State 39-34 with 4:17 left in the 2011 Big Ten Championship Game, the Badgers faced a fourth-and-6 from the Spartans’ 43-yard line. What came next will go down as QB Russell Wilson’s greatest play in his one season in Madison. In the shotgun, Wilson looked initially at TE Jacob Pedersen and WR Jared Abbrederis, but not seeing any separation, he started drifting out of the pocket to his left. All of a sudden he stopped, set his feet and unleashed a rainbow back across the field. There, somehow, WR Jeff Duckworth fought off two defenders to make the catch at the 7-yard line. Wisconsin would score a touchdown on the next play and ultimately win 42-39 to claim a second straight Big Ten title.
3) Showing it all
Melvin Gordon saved some his best work for his final game in a Wisconsin uniform, rushing for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns against Auburn in a 34-31 overtime win in the 2015 Outback Bowl. While Gordon had many big plays that day, it was the one on fourth-and-1 from midfield near the end of the third quarter that stood out. The Heisman Trophy runner-up showed everything that made him such a great running back on the play, as he burst through a hole in the middle of the Tigers defense and juked one defender before taking off toward the sideline. Instead of going out of bounds, Gordon handed out a devastating stiff arm on his way into the end zone for a 53-yard score. It was the last great run of so many in Gordon’s time in Madison.
4) Still fighting
Montee Ball was the third-string running back when the Badgers rolled into Iowa City on Oct. 23, 2010 to take on the No. 13 Hawkeyes, but the day would be a turning point in his career. With freshman James White suffering a knee injury early on and junior John Clay also limited, Wisconsin turned to the sophomore Ball.
In a back-and-forth affair, the No. 10 Badgers trailed 30-24 with 1:18 left, but a 14-play drive had set them up with a second-and-2 from the Iowa 8-yard line. Ball got the handoff and followed FB Bradie Ewing and pulling OG John Moffitt to the right side where the first Hawkeyes defender met him at the 5-yard line. But Ball didn’t go down, instead driving all the way to the 1-yard line with three Iowa players wrapped all over him. And just before his knee touched, he reached the ball out across the goal line for what would eventually be ruled a touchdown. The Badgers went on to win 31-30 and continue their push for a Big Ten title.
5) Knock it down
In a matchup many felt would decide the Big Ten West, No. 7 Nebraska came to town on Oct. 29, 2016 to face the No. 11 Badgers. The game went to overtime and Wisconsin scored first but missed the extra point. That meant a Nebraska touchdown would almost surely give the Huskers the win. So faced with a fourth-and-8 from Wisconsin 24-yard line, the Huskers took their shot.
WR Stanley Morgan Jr. ran a double move just to get some separation from CB Sojourn Shelton, and QB Tommy Armstrong threw it up for Morgan to go get in the end zone. The only problem was that safety D’Cota Dixon was in perfect position, coming over to knock it down and set off a wild celebration at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin would go on to win the division and play for a Big Ten title.
Hall of Fame worthy
Troy Vincent played at Wisconsin when it was typically not fun to play for the Badgers. The All-American CB won just nine games in his four-year career that lasted from 1988-91. It didn’t hurt his draft stock, however — he was taken No. 7 overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 1992 NFL Draft — but it certainly had to take a toll on him mentally. That’s why it was good to see his name back on the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame ballot Thursday for a second consecutive year.
. @B1Gfootball alums on the 2018 CFBHOF ballot:
• Purdue: Larry Burton & Taylor Stubblefield
• Minn: Bob Stein
• Wisconsin: Troy Vincent
— Mike Pearson (@B1GLLL) June 1, 2017
Wisconsin has 10 players in the HOF, with DT Tim Krumrie being the latest (Class of 2016). Vincent should join him at some point. Despite the Badgers going just 5-6 in his senior year, he was named the co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and finished as the runner-up for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the best defensive back in the country. A big cornerback at 6 feet, 1 inch, Vincent also excelled as a punt returner, leaving as the school’s all-time leader in return yards (he’s now third).
That he accomplished all he did with a program that was an afterthought during his career is particularly impressive. If he had been at Miami, Notre Dame or another power of that era, he would probably be viewed in a different light. As it is, he’ll have to hope that voters see him for the player he was and take into consideration the guys he played with.
Selection Sunday isn’t for another nine months, but ESPN’s Joe Lunardi released an updated Bracketology on Thursday. It comes in the wake of players deciding to stay in the NBA draft or head back to school. For Wisconsin, there was no change, as the Badgers remained a No. 8 seed.
The placement sounds about right for a team that lost four senior starters but returns one of the better players in the country in Ethan Happ. Still, few teams this fall will be a bigger mystery than Wisconsin. Those close to the team know the talent is there to earn a 20th straight tournament appearance, but the Badgers need it to come together quickly if they want to be dancing come March.